Our Hiking Time: 2h 10m
Total Ascent: 200ft
Highest Point: 520ft
Total Distance: 4.2 miles
Location: N 47° 36.6960, W 121° 59.4900
Required Permit: None
A few weeks ago we had the chance to check out one of the many trail systems managed by King County that do not get the kind of attention that Tiger or Cougar receive. We’d heard about “hidden” parks like Soaring Eagle Regional Park and decided it was time to see if the short drive out to Sammamish was worth the trip. While we didn’t find great hiking, we did find a nice network of forested multi-use trails about 30 minutes from Seattle.
Soaring Eagles’ boundaries form an almost perfect square, a legacy dating back to the early 1800s, when Washington State was first surveyed. As we’ve mentioned before, the state divided into townships, each with 36 sections of one square mile each. One section in every township was held in trust by the state for the building of schools, preventing development in that section – this is exactly what happened to Soaring Eagle, which was managed by the Department of Natural Resources until 1993. In that year, King County acquired the 600 acres from the DNR, and slowly set about developing the area into a regional park. Grand plans of play fields were mothballed due to lack of funding, and instead the mixed forest and wetlands were allowed to survive, supporting a variety of wildlife – including deer, bear, and a variety of birds.
Like many regional trail systems, Soaring Eagle is a cobweb of connected trails that cover most of the park. To prevent confusion, each of the 28 trail intersections is signed and most have a map letting you know where you are. We decided to see as much of the park as possible by making a large loop starting from the main entrance. Although housing developments are initially visible, they quickly fade into the trees as you wander deeper into the park. The grade is gentle and the trails are mostly in good repair, letting you enjoy the surroundings. Birds are plentiful filling the trees with constant movement. The landscape is surprisingly fluid - widely spaced stands of alder and maple change quickly to more densely packed swaths of fir and hemlock which yield to sections of marshy wetlands.
The park is very popular for biking and trail running, so be prepared to share the trail – though we only saw a few folks on our walk. The main Pipeline Trail is wide and flat, making it possible to bring the whole family out, stroller and all. If you’re looking for new places to bring the dog, this is a good option as well. On the other hand, there is relatively little actual hiking in the park, so those looking for a good hill climb should avoid this one.
To get there, take SR 520 until it ends taking a right on Redmond Way. Follow Redmond Way out to 244th St and head right. Continue on 244th until you reach E Main Drive. Take a left and follow E Main Dr until you reach the Soaring Eagle parking lot. The trailhead is at the far end of the lot. - Nathan
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